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22/05/01 GAAC Seminar Notes
Our Neighbours are NOT the Enemy - White Waltham

Tony Cooper
Airfield Director
White Waltham

"Be Reasonable"

The aerodrome at White Waltham has been the location of flying activities since before World War II. In 1982 it was sold to private ownership, and from that time, reflecting the general decline in tolerance for GA activities, complaints started to build. The owners response was largely one of head in the sand. With such an established facility which pre-dated current green belt policies and planning systems the then owners felt little need to respond to the mounting opposition which was now being reflected in the Local Plan adopted in 1991. In 1992 however, the aerodrome changed hands, and the new owners recognised that something had to be done about the increasing pressure. They adopted a pro-active stance based on negotiation. Rather than wait for the local council to start imposing restrictions, the new owners made the first move and approached the council. The resulting dialogue went on for five years, during which time the council sought to impose restrictions that would impact on flight operations and which the aerodrome sought to negotiate a way around.

In 1997 the airfield was subject to 2 enforcement notices. Their options were now to do nothing, which was really no option at all, to fight by appealing (and at a cost of 70,000 for the estimated 3 day inquiry this was something they wanted to avoid), or to negotiate once again. They chose to negotiate in the form of a planning application for a hangar and office space. The application was framed in such a way as to allay the council's fears that White Waltham would be developed into another Northolt. Unfortunately the planning inspector, mindful of public feeling made obvious by the mass of letters of objection, insisted that the appeal against the enforcement notices should go ahead.

White Waltham once again resorted to negotiation. In return for a voluntary 18 month agreement on flying controls, under which no night flying or helicopter training would be allowed, the council agreed to withdraw the enforcement notices. A local working group was then set up comprising the aerodrome, local residents and the council. The purpose of the working group was to put together a more permanent agreement that all could be happy with. For its part the aerodrome has embarked on a series of actions which are designed to promote good (and considerate) airmanship, maintain communications with the council and local residents, implement a noise
complaint system, establish an aerobatic square, and publish the Pilots Order Book and circuit procedures.

The owners have also bitten the bullet and embarked on the certification and fitting of silencers to aircraft. This was seen as a costly exercise but the owners felt that the cost of not fitting silencers was even greater. They felt that the local community could reasonably expect the aerodrome to undertake such an exercise and that it was unreasonable not to fit silencers where they were available. In fact White Waltham is now the UK agent for Liese-Muffler Systems which allow GA aircraft to meet the very stringent German noise limits. CAA type certification has been gained for the PA28 series and the PA38, and will soon be gained for the Cessna 152 and 172. Other types can be certified on request. Further evidence of the aerodrome's commitment to addressing this issue and being seen to do so is in the incentives it currently offers for silenced aircraft. The day is not too far away when unsilenced aircraft at White Waltham will be penalised.

The secret of the aerodrome's success in the face of a well educated well off opposition with time to mount an effective opposition has been its determination to act reasonably in all matters. Local residents are recognised as having a valid point in their objections to aircraft noise and they have rights within the planning system. To have done nothing but remain with heads in the sand would have placed the aerodrome's future in a precarious position. If the owners did not do something themselves, then it would have only been a matter of time before it was done for them. They recognised the prevailing sentiment, and conducted a pro-active campaign of their own based on communication and negotiation. They took and were seen to take all reasonable actions that could be expected of it in addressing objectors concerns.

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Notes taken at the GAAC seminar;
"The Future for UK Aerodromes"
4th May 2001
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sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Bleak Future
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White Waltham
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sm_bull.jpg (515 bytes)Quiet Aeroplane

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